James Desautels’ campaign photo. (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)

This is James Desautels’ first time running for mayor. If elected, he wants to implement policies to address climate change, build a vaccine production facility in the city and address income inequality related to capitalism.

Desautels, who has a master’s degree in music from the University of Arizon, wants to make debate in city hall easier to understand and also wants to remove titles like “Your Worship” from city hall debates.

His campaign is focused on social problems in Calgary and he suggests a “shift” is required, though his campaign literature is light on details about what that might look like.

The Calgary Journal asked our city’s mayoral candidates five questions about themselves and their campaigns. Here’s what Desautels told us:

5 Questions with James Desautels:

Laura Balanko-Dickson: What issue is most important to you as a mayoral candidate?

James Desautels: We have three very broad, very large areas. And even before I get to those three, let’s start with, look at the unique circumstances surrounding this interview surrounding this Q and A. Now I’m fortunate on my end that I can do it without a mask because it’s from a room and in our home. And you of course are very responsible in a shared public space with a mask on. So as mayor managing the COVID situation, the ongoing global pandemic and how we manage Calgary through that is of massive importance.

More about James Desautels:

LinkedIn: James Desautels

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Website: jamesdesautels.com

Then the first thing, energy is everywhere. We are using energy to do this right now. And energy has to come from someplace. We need a paradigm shift, Laura, on energy production and also on energy consumption. And there are ways to do that at the city level here in Calgary with new construction. Are we building sustainably and responsibly with regard to the environment with altered construction? Are we doing that? Are we maintaining and keeping and growing our public spaces and our trees and so energy, a shift and how we’re producing that energy. Number two, capitalism income inequality is our biggest challenge. When it comes to capitalism, we need to take the process that we have of corporate welfare. We need to end that and we need to take that money and those resources, and we need to give it to the majority of Calgarians. And when I say the majority of Calgarians it’s Calgarians that are not in the 1% of capital holders.

So, like redistribution?

Well, not only redistributing but more accurately, if I may say, we talk about $313 million in public funds, if we are okay, redistributing. If we are giving that to people who already have billions in capital, that does nothing for the majority of Calgarians back quickly to energy, that’s related to our environment and climate change. And this very unique time in world history, this pandemic back to the preface to the three points. This pandemic is related to climate change. It’s all related. It’s sort of, uh, coming to, uh, you know, three or four rivers coming to, to meet each other. And then the third big category, it’s time to end systemic racism, sexism, and body ableism. We need an inclusive Calgary that looks past ethnicity, and those are hot-button issues. And if we look at directly how it affects capital in Calgary, we can talk about police budgets. We can talk about a military visitation of the police. The numbers are there. Wonderful, wonderful, independent reporters here in Calgary. And I get a lot of my information from very fast online sources. So I’m grateful for that. Um, $11 billion was spent on two helicopters. A couple of months later, 60 million.

Calgary has a well funded police force

Let that sink in. Is that an appropriate way to spend public funds? So thanks for that space. So those are the three big issues. And if we look at everyday life it’s pandemic life and it’s, how are we dealing with income and how are we dealing with public funds and resources and how are we dealing with the environment? 

Is there the one that is most important to you or do you view them all as relatively equal?

Well, the most important is survival on mother earth on this planet. So the shape, the conditions, the conditions of this planet are number one. And again, I’ve mentioned an example at the local level here in Calgary, there are ways to do a paradigm shift and to take that money and give it to the majority of Calgarians in a variety of forums with public transportation, with city parks, with city aquatic services and recreation services and health services for the body. We do need to do better. I’ve been very fortunate to speak with people who come from different built body abilities, uh, you know, on the spectrum and their issues are accessibility, right? I mean, things that we take for granted in terms of transportation and in terms of mobility and in terms of winter climate and those snow hazards and those ice hazards. And so there’s a lot more of those funds. How about taking those hundreds of millions of dollars and addressing that right. And addressing, providing in some fashion, an address and a home for every Calgarian. We all deserve it.

Let’s move on to the next question, which is a short one, but maybe you’ll have a longer answer. Why should young people vote for you?

If young people show up and vote, it will change the direction of Calgary. If young people show up and vote, it’ll make for a more progressive Calgary city council, which can then make decisions based on the good of the majority of Calgarians and address those top three things. That’s a very incredible power, the right to vote. There are many countries that don’t have it, especially for the people who will hopefully get on their frequency on their radar voting for the first time, what an awesome privilege to have, what an awesome. Right. And so if young people want to shape our city, that’s the way to begin to shape it.

Definitely. Thank you so much for that. Let’s move on to something more fun. If you had downtime during your campaign, where are you going to be spending the time and why?

Outdoors. We’re very lucky to have so many wonderful parks near our home. I love to go up to the dog park here at Tom Campbell park, basically any park I can get to. And nowadays it involves going to the playground, going outside. That’s a huge thing for me, spending time with family.

Makes sense to me. Have there been any TV shows or movies, or I guess other media that have helped you get through the pandemic?

Absolutely. We are going through Good Girls right now.

So I’m sure you know that Calgary is in a weird sort of economic spot right now. So people are in Calgary or young people are looking elsewhere for opportunities. So do you have any ideas for how to address that or to make Calgary the prosperous city that it once was?

How about I flip the question around, what do you want to see in Calgary, those issues? I mentioned everything comes back to those three big issues for our campaign. And we’re in a very unique position because we could talk about it for a lot of people. It’s the elephant in the room. Definitely. They don’t want to talk about daily life. Our next-door neighbour passed of COVID last week.

Sorry to hear that.

That ought to be front and center for everything we do as a city council, moving forward, this is testing our public health care. It’s putting stress on public education. It’s putting daily financial stresses on the majority of Calgarians. Definitely, that’s front and center. We need to manage our way through this back to young people. So I want to give you a chance what things on a daily level, on a, on a daily basis for life in Calgary, you heard my values, you heard the things that give me a sense of being grounded and that’s the outdoors and that’s nature, and that’s enjoying public spaces and that’s enjoying walking and being active and enjoying family time, as important as careers are. Of course. So for you, what does that look like?

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Um, I wasn’t prepared for you to interview me today. Let me tell you. I would say it just shouldn’t be oil-based. I just think, because there’s just been so much waste around that, like with tax dollars and otherwise, and I’m not saying that we should completely remove fossil fuels because obviously, that’s not where we’re at. 

So how about evolving that and taking that information and thank you for that and working immediately towards diversifying our economy. So one way to do that is to place priority and importance and funding and resources towards live music, towards music, towards the arts, towards creators. Right now, there are places like Bow Valley College that are starting some wonderful things with gaming and stuff like that. We’re doing a lot of filming here. We’re doing a lot of television and movie production. That’s terrific on the backend with post-production. Most of the music that is done and will be done for those shows and those movies are done out of the city.

“We need to keep our public healthcare system and we need to increase it.”

james desautels

There is a disconnect there because there are so many talented creative musical artists, entrepreneurs, creators and content creators, painters and novelists here in Calgary. So again, what can hundreds of millions of dollars do? It can employ thousands of Calgarians making art. Nobody’s going to live music that on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again. How about paying all of the creative people to make their stuff in a space that’s safe? So for a musician, it’s a song or an album or some sort of recording or a video, right? And there are funding bodies that exist out there, mostly at the provincial and national levels.

So how about scholarships? How about the city of Calgary scholarships for Calgarians to seek education, to go to university, to go to college, to go to trade school, to learn how to do whatever it is now, all of those things diversify our economy. So does attracting tech companies. So does helping a Calgary based company that has the capabilities for a COVID vaccine, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, they are doing incredible research with vaccines, for everything from diabetes to Alzheimer’s and on and on and on that’s another sector, that’s health. We need to keep our public healthcare system and we need to increase it. It’s stressed to the limits right now. So how do we retain young people, create careers and opportunities and pathways to a variety of careers, especially ones needed here in 2021?

And also retention in those careers, probably. 

But that’s key. And I used the word unprecedented. I was doing a podcast some months back and we had a little sort of side discussion about the use of the word unprecedented. And he said it, maybe I should give a shout out to Mark Kondrat, the Kondrat podcast. And he said, yes, but it’s saying unprecedented everywhere. It’s unprecedented. It’s unprecedented. Well, we are seeing it everywhere, but it’s true. It’s absolutely true. So if we keep doing things the same way in Calgary, we should see similar results. Isn’t that science and experimentation, all right there. And isn’t it insanity to keep doing things the same way, expecting a different result? So all of these things we’re talking about, it’s, I don’t want to say paint them all with the brush that it’s easy to do. All these things are easy, but it takes a thinking change to your point. The first thing you thought of, and you, there was a long pause and you said some pathway evolving off of oil.

“We need to be forward-thinking enough to realize we need trees and we need places for people to engage in the community right here.”

James Desautels

And so obviously as a long-time professional musician, I see the value in that. And I see what that does for everything about being human, for living the human experience as does having green spaces as does having access to healthcare, access to public transportation, right? People, some people love their cars. Some people love their bicycles. I see all of these which appeared to be individually engineered and produced alterations on their bikes for carrying things, for carrying children. And it’s wonderful. And a lot of people love to walk and I love to walk. We need to keep these spaces and we need to be forward-thinking enough to realize we need trees and we need places for people to engage in the community right here. Yes. There is a reason for us doing this, but what an incredible opportunity for me to learn more about you, that’s another gift of our campaign. I get to meet incredible people. So I like to hear what concerns you have and what passions you have. So that’s fun too.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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